A guide to a city, a primer for the novel in all its varieties, an effusion of poetry, a comedy of the ordinary man on an heroic scale, Ulysses by James Joyce is all of these things, and, as the daddy of them all, has spawned a whole literature of explanation.
David Collard’s book reminds you, first of all, to plunge in. The novel is funny and entertaining and so is this book. If you are new to Joyce and Ulysses this is as good a place to start as a Martello tower. We have illustrations galore, favourites are Joyce’s smudgy caricature of Leopold Bloom with an errant moustache, “Ally” Sloper, the comic character, a Borsalino hat, and Joyce’s Zylo spectacles. For the possible Joyce impersonator, this is a treasure. Are you reading, Nicholas Royle?
So what did I learn, that Joyce has hundreds of characters in Ulysses and that Professor John Sutherland may not have read the book. You can go to a scholarly book and find accounts of the novel deconstructed, feminised, decolonialised, and culturally materialised, but this book, for me, was nearer to the truths of how we read, digressively omnivorous. For a compendious novel like Ulysses an ordinary critical approach seems dull.
If Ulysses ends with Molly’s monologue and the three yeses, this hilarious series of essays, that spins from the novel with comic abandon, is well worth a yes too. Next stop Finnegans Wake or Tristram Shandy please.
Any Cop?: It is no wonder that David Collard has become one of the best fiction reviewers for the Times Literary Supplement and for 3:AM, amongst other publications. The book also provides a quiz and reading hints for a life in modern fiction.